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Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007 02:32 pm

Motion denied

Appeals court allows Sallenger case to proceed

Untitled Document Three Springfield police officers face a federal trial on claims that they used excessive force in the 2002 death of a mentally ill man. In a Jan. 10 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit denied the city of Springfield’s motion for summary judgment in a case based on qualified immunity, clearing the way for plaintiff Mary Sallenger, mother of the late Andrew Sallenger, to proceed with her case against SPD Officers Brian Oakes and Jason Oliver and retired Sgt. James Zimmerman.  In April 2002, family members had called 911, saying that Andrew was “schizophrenic bipolar manic-depressive” and asking for paramedics. Instead, only SPD officers were dispatched. They found 35-year-old Andrew sitting in his bedroom, naked and muttering. When they tried to arrest him for disorderly conduct, Andrew resisted, and the officers used pepper spray, punches, flashlight blows, handcuffs, and a hobble to subdue him. At some point, they noticed that Andrew was no longer breathing. He died a day later, never having regained consciousness [see Dusty Rhodes, “Why Andy won’t die,” March 13, 2003]. The Sangamon County coroner concluded that Andrew’s death was caused by “agitated delirium” and other natural causes. However, an expert hired by the Sallenger family argued that the fact that the officers left Andrew lying on his chest while hobbled resulted in “positional asphyxiation.”  
The appeals court, bound to view the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, found that “a reasonable officer would have known that administering closed-fist punches and flashlight blows, including ones to the head, after the arrestee was handcuffed, and continuing to strike him after he had stopped resisting arrest and failing to place him in the proper position after hobbling him violated the individual’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force.”. 

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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